Archive for August, 2018

Keep it Legal – Keep it Clean

Since it’s about a month and a half until duck season opens here in Southern California I figured now would be a good time to go over some of the rules, regulations and common courtesies involved in the sport. There’s nothing worse than getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar, so to speak, and having Mr. Green Jeans scratching you out an expensive citation and ejecting you from the wildlife area while fellow hunters look on from the neighboring blinds. So, here’s some of the stuff you need to know, or for most of us, already know, but maybe a little reminder wouldn’t hurt so nobody “forgets” what they’re supposed to do.

First, and most obvious, is the season dates and limits. For the 2018/19 season in the Southern California Area (where San Jacinto Wildlife Area is located) the following regulations apply:
Ducks and Geese: October 20, 2018, through January 27, 2019.
Special Youth Hunt Days: February 2 and February 3, 2019. (San Jacinto’s Annual Youth Hunt will be February 2nd, 2019).

Ducks: Daily bag limit: 7. Which may consist of 7 mallards, of which only 2 can be female; 2 pintail; 2 canvasback; 2 redheads; 3 scaup. (*NOTE* – Scaup may only be taken November 3rd, 2018 through January 27th, 2019 – so be careful the first two weeks of the season once again. There’s always a few Scaup around SJ before their season opens).
Geese: Daily bag limit: 23 of which 20 may be white geese and 3 may be dark geese.
Possession Limit Ducks and Geese: Triple the daily bag limit.
Black Brant (Although a “sea goose” I’ll add this because occasionally a few seem to show up at San Jacinto): November 9, 2018 – December 15, 2018. Daily bag limit: 2 per day. Possession limit triple the daily bag limit
Ok, now that we have the most obvious out of the way here’s a few more we all need to keep in mind.

“Electronic” Spinning wing decoys (AKA – mojos) will be allowed from December 1st until the season ends (statewide) – non-motorized / wind-powered mojos are allowed all season.

NO LEAD AMMO!! This should be a no-brainer if you’ve hunted ducks within that last 26 years. The prohibition on lead ammunition for waterfowl hunting is a federal law and was phased-in starting in the 1987/88 hunting season and was nationwide by 1991. You might think that, since it’s been so long since the phase-in that no one needs a reminder of this. The reason I mention it is that even though California is phasing out lead ammo throughout the state for any type of hunting it still hasn’t been phased out altogether. We are currently in phase 2 of the phase-out of lead ammo in California and phase 2 states “Phase 2 – Effective July 1, 2016, nonlead shot required when taking upland game birds with a shotgun, except for dove, quail, snipe, and any game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs. In addition, nonlead shot required when using a shotgun to take resident small game mammals, furbearing mammals, nongame mammals, nongame birds, and any wildlife for depredation purposes.” So, if you happened to be out in the desert chasing quail last week and you’re going to bring the same sweatshirt you wore out there to go duck hunting this week make dern sure you thoroughly go through the pockets to make sure you didn’t leave a round or two of lead quail loads in there. Mr. or Ms. Warden won’t take the “oops, I forgot” excuse if the find any lead shot in your possession so make sure you don’t have any out there.

Sort of related to that is the shell limit. On any state wildlife area or federal refuge, you are limited to 25 rounds in the field. That’s not 25 rounds in the blind and another 25 hidden somewhere between your truck and the blind, that’s 25 period. If you really need more shells take the walk back to your truck, at least they allow us to keep some in our vehicles. In reality, there aren’t too many days you’re going to need more than 25 rounds. This is another good reason to check your pockets before you go into the field. You don’t want the aforementioned Warden(s) to check you early in the day and find out that, because you left 3 shells in your waders from chasing a cripple last week, you are in possession of 28 shells. Another big ticket.

Again, sort of related, make sure if you’re shooting a pump or auto-loading shotgun that is capable of holding more than two shells in the magazine make sure you have a magazine plug installed. You’re allowed three shells in the shotgun total, one in the chamber and two in the magazine. Don’t get caught without a plug installed in your shotgun while out in the field. Another big “ka-ching” if you’re caught.

Littering…(my pet peeve – the main reason for the “keep it clean” in this post title). If you brought in that candy bar, water bottle, ammo box or whatever assorted garbage you produce while in the blind, CARRY IT BACK OUT!! This includes your empty shotgun shells. Obviously, this stuff will weigh less than when you brought it in so there’s no excuse, (or actually there’s one partial excuse, which is to follow right here ->>>). Now I know, because it happens to me almost every hunt, with a modern pump gun or autoloader you’re going to lose a few shells. It can’t be helped as most of these guns throw the empties quite a way. But, please, make every effort to retrieve as many of your spent shells as you possibly can, plus any that you find that prior hunters missed picking up. Obviously littering is illegal, not only on the wildlife area but everywhere so just why would you even do it? A handy appliance for picking up spent shells is a shell stick. Here’s a link on how to build one, if you don’t want to bend over umpteen times picking up shells around your blind:

Skybusting. Please, just don’t. Skybusting or skyscraping is shooting at birds that are out of range hoping to get that one “magic bb” in the right spot to bring down the bird. I know it’s tempting, especially when things are slow, all you’ll usually end up doing is scaring away ducks that may have been starting to work a neighboring blind’s decoys or, worse, wounding a bird to fly off and die later on. Although there is no law against skybusting it makes you extremely unpopular with your fellow hunters so it’s not a good idea, unless you have stock holdings in an ammunition manufacturing business. 40 yards is about the furthest you should shoot at a duck. If you need some practice getting an idea of what a duck looks like at 40 yards take a life-sized decoy out to the local high school field and set it on the goal line and then walk out to the 40 yards line and look at it.

Excessive and/or poor calling. Another “just don’t” that’s not illegal but will PO your neighboring hunters if you “just do”. Calling properly actually takes some talent and, more importantly, practice to do correctly. I wrote a post on this a while back, so I’ll not rehash it here. Just click on the link below to read that post:

Parking. At SJ most of the blinds have specific parking areas. When you get you blind assignment in the morning (or later if you’re refilling) the SJ staff will tell you where to park. In most cases, these parking areas are for two reasons. First, to keep your vehicle safe. Nothing is worse than coming back to your truck and finding your windshield or the paint on your hood was peppered by shot sometime during the day. Second these spots are also designed so that as hunters come and go during the day it minimizes the disturbance of the other blinds in the area. So, park where you’re supposed to park to avoid the above problems.

Start/finish time. Start time, and finishing time, or legal shooting time, is posted at the check station for each day’s hunting. BTW – There’s an App for that! It’s called your cell phone. Set alarm times for start and finish times before you leave the check station. At San Jacinto the staff there also comes out into the wildlife area just before start time and blows an air horn at start time so there’s really no excuse to shoot early. Depending on the time of year and the conditions the morning fly off is sometime the only chance some hunters will get to bag a duck or two. If some, (yes, I’ll say it), Jerk shoots 5 minutes early it could ruin the hunt day for half the wildlife area, at least. It also tends to start a chain reaction of people shooting early as they think, since someone shot, that it’s now start time and their watch or cell phone is somehow set to the wrong time. It’s really the height of selfishness to shoot early just to try to bag a bird and thereby screw up everybody else’s hunt that day. Lastly, this one is illegal and if the Wardens catch you you’re done for the day with an expensive ticket.

So, that’s about it. The season’s just around the corner and it’s about time to pull the duck gear out of the garage and get ready for another season of duck hunting at San Jacinto. Hope to see you out there sometime.

2018 Dove Season Opens Saturday, September 1st – San Jacinto Wildlife Area Info

September 1st is, as it has been for time immemorial, the opening of dove season in California.  This year that happens to be on a Saturday, next Saturday in fact.  Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area, wanted me to announce that the entire wildlife area will be opened to dove hunting for the first Three days of dove season.  From opening day, Saturday September 1st, until Monday September 3rd, hunters may chase doves not only on the upland areas of San Jacinto, but they can also attempt to bag the little gray rockets around the Wildlife Area’s duck hunting side.  For the remainder of the dove season, after September 3rd until September 15th, dove hunting will be allowed only on the upland areas of San Jacinto.  Hunting doves in the waterfowl area of SJ won’t be allowed after September 3rd.

Tom also wanted to remind everyone that this year, as it has been for the last couple years, due to Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations only non-toxic shot may be used on the wildlife area.  This means NO LEAD SHOT is allowed at any time at SJ whether you’re duck hunting, upland hunting or rabbit hunting.    Be sure you don’t have any lead shot with you if you’re going to hunt San Jacinto, or any other state wildlife area or refuge this year.  Wardens will be checking and possession of even one round of lead shot could get you a citation.  So, check your hunting vest thoroughly to make sure an old round of lead shot isn’t stuck in one of the pockets.  Also, don’t forget that your old hunting license expired at the end of June.  Don’t be caught without your 2018/19 hunting license and your upland endorsement on you license.

Tom told me that they are seeing a good amount of dove utilizing SJ this year and they’ve planted several fields with dove-attracting crops.  That’s not to say that you’re going to limit out in an hour, like you might be able to do down at Niland or someplace like that, but you have a good chance of bagging a few birds close to home.

So, Hopefully, there won’t be any last-minute thunder storms to chase the birds out of the area.  A quick check of the weather app show that there aren’t any predicted, but then that’s a weather prediction so who knows.   If you so inclined to try your luck at San Jacinto things are looking pretty good for the opener.

Hope to see you out on good old SJ some time.

More Palm Fronds Needed at San Jacinto – Prep for Blind Brush Up Day

Tom Trakes of San Jacinto Wildlife Area is requesting that anyone that has access to palm fronds and would like to get rid of them to donate them to San Jacinto Wildlife Area.  The palm fronds are needed to finish brushing up the wildlife area’s blinds for the upcoming waterfowl hunting season.

With the great success of the last blind brush-up day almost all of SJ’s supply of palm fronds has been depleted.  More are needed for the next brush-up volunteer work day to finish the work on September 22nd.   Anyone who is trimming palm trees and wants to bring them around to San Jacinto to get rid of them give Tom a call at 951-236-3040 and he’ll make arrangements for someone to be there so you can drop them off. He also wanted me to remind people that they DO NOT want fronds that have the thorns on them.  Don’t bring the wader-rippers but other, non-thorny palm fronds are welcome. The thorn laden fronds are okay to use, however, if you’re willing to strip off the thorns prior to bringing them in.

Thanks in advance for any palm fronds anyone can bring in.





US Fish and Wildlife Reports Nationwide Duck Numbers Down slightly for the 2018/2019 Waterfowl Season

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service have reported the results of their joint breeding population and habitat survey.  Total duck numbers were down slightly compared to last year’s count and, in fact, each individual species dropped to some degree with the exception of Wigeon.  However, the bright spot is that all species where actually up from their long-term averages, with the exception of Scaup and Pintail. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at:  reported:

“2018 duck population and pond estimates from the annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. The estimate of 41.2 million breeding ducks was lower than last year’s estimate of 47.3 million, but 17% higher than the long-term average. The total pond estimate was 5.2 million, which was 14% below last year’s estimate of 6.1 million and similar to the long-term average of 5.2 million. Habitat conditions were similar to or declined relative to 2017. Much of the Canadian Prairies experienced average fall and winter precipitation and below-average spring precipitation. The U.S. prairies experienced average to above-average precipitation, but had more variable conditions compared to prairie Canada. Habitat conditions generally declined northward, particularly near the Montana-North Dakota border with Canada.”

The report revealed that Mallards were down to approximately 9.26 million, which was a 12% decrease from the 2017 estimate of 10.49 million, yet still 17% above the long-term average.  Bluewing Teal numbers are approximately 6.45 million, which is 18% below the 2017 estimate of 7.89 million but 27% above the long-term average. Green-winged teal are down to 3.04 million, which is just 16% below the 2017 estimate of 3.61 million but still 42% above the long-term average. The estimate for American Wigeon is 2.82 million which is a 2% increase over the 2017 estimate of 2.78 million and 8% above the long-term average. Estimated numbers of gadwall are 2.89 million which is way down 31% from the 2017 estimate of 4.18 million yet still is 43% above the long-term average. Scaup (both greater and lesser) showed 3.99 million, which is a 9% decrease from the 2017 estimate of 4.37 million and 20% below the long-term average. Northern Shoveler (our beloved SJ spoonys) are estimated at 4.21 million which is 3% below the 2017 estimate of 4.35 million but still a whopping 43% above the long-term average. Redheads are 1.0 million which is 10% below the 2017 estimate of 1.12 million and 32% above the long-term average. Canvasbacks showed 0.69 million which is close but still down 6% from the 2017 estimate of 0.73 million but still 16% above the long-term average. Pintails were estimated at 2.37 million, which was 18% below the 2017 estimate of 2.89 million and 40% below the long-term average.

So, it looks like, unfortunately, this coming season will present hunters with slightly fewer birds but still, despite this, we might have the potential to get a crack at good numbers since most waterfowl, with the exception of Scaup and Pintail, are still above their long-term averages.  Although, in contrast, another thing to remember, for we Southern California duck hunters, is that that the California DFW’s own state population survey shows duck numbers in our state actually up 39% over last year’s state numbers.  (You can check out SoCalHunt’s report on the California DFW’s survey here: ).  So maybe this isn’t bad news for us here in So Cal if you consider that.

More important to hunters here in Southern California than small fluctuations in nationwide duck numbers is the weather, and not really our weather so much.  What Southern California duck hunters really need is some weather up north to spur the bird into moving into our area.

As I type this its 59 days until the season opens down here in SoCal.  It might be a good time to start getting your duck hunting gear together and maybe go shoot a few rounds of trap or skeet to tune up. Hopefully, the birds will migrate early, and we’ll have another great season at San Jacinto!

You can find the entire report at the link below if you’re inclined to read the entire thing:



Great Turnout for San Jacinto’s Volunteer Blind Brush Up / Work Day, Saturday, August 18th

On Saturday, August 18th, SoCalHunt was on hand with about 30 other volunteers ready to get-r-done at San Jacinto’s first volunteer blind brush-up / work day for the upcoming season.

The volunteers met at the check station parking lot bright and early at 0700 and Tom sent everyone out across the Wildlife Area to brush-up several of the hunting area’s blinds.  In addition, some general clean up was done around and inside some of the blinds, some of which included trimming natural growth that was overgrown and cleaning out tumbleweeds and other plants that had taken over the inside of a few of the blinds.

Tom giving us our assignments

Heading out to the blinds with some palm fronds

Brushing a blind (before)

A brushed-up blind (after)

The SJ staff is starting to flood some of the ponds and there were a lot of ducks already utilizing the wildlife area.  Things are looking good for the upcoming season.

Some of the Wildlife Area’s ducks

After working hard all morning the volunteer crew and SJ staff retired Marcello’s Pizza in Nuevo for a great lunch.

Some of the crew at lunch!

Once again, Tom and his team at San Jacinto would like to give a big thank you to everyone that came out and worked hard to get things in ship shape for the upcoming waterfowl season.

There will be at least one more blind brush-up / work day to finish getting things in ship shape for the quickly approaching 2018/19 waterfowl hunting season. This one is scheduled for Saturday, September 22nd and volunteers are to meet at the check station parking lot at 7:00 am.  Mark it on your calendar!  Hope to see at least as many volunteers for this next work day as we had on this one.  It’ll make things go quick and easy as more volunteers means less work for each volunteer.

(Info on the next Blind Brush-up day here: )





Federal Duck Stamp Now Available Online Through California Waterfowl Association

As you well know, if you’ve ever hunted waterfowl before, one of the legal requirements is to have in your possession, as part of your license, a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or, as everybody calls it, a Federal Duck Stamp.  Sometimes these are hard to find.  US Post Offices are supposed to carry them but many times they either don’t have any or have (or had) very few and are sold out.  In addition, many sporting goods stores will carry a supply of the stamps, but you never know when they might run dry on them too.

The solution is to get your Federal Duck Stamp online from the California Waterfowl Association (CWA).  As a convenience to hunters every year the CWA has online sales of the stamps for members and non-members alike.  They do charge a $5 handling fee, which brings the total cost of the stamp to $30 but then you don’t have to run around town looking for one, it just shows up in your mailbox in a week or so.

Speaking of sales to non-members, if you’re not a member then while you’re at CWA’s website buying your stamp it would be a really good idea to sign up as a CWA member.  Besides a great bi-monthly magazine they usually have some type of promotion they’ll send along to you (right now it’s a nice CWA baseball cap) and you’ll also get the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping ducks and duck hunting in California specifically.  If you hunt ducks in California, you should be a member of CWA.

Just remember that CWA doesn’t have an unlimited supply of Federal Stamps, although I’m sure they buy a big block of them, so don’t wait too long to get yours.  You’ll also have to make sure to give them enough time to send it to you in the mail so like a week before the season might present a problem if you’re going to hunt the opener.  Get it now and you’ll have plenty of time.  Below is the link for CWA’s page for online sales of the Federal Waterfowl Stamp.

Also, like I said before since you’re there, here’s the link to the page to join CWA.  $35 a year or, for Junior hunters (under 18 years old) $15 well spent.

Hope to see you out there opening day with all your licenses, stamps, and passes so no one has to get turned away at the check station.



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